Steve already discussed Flip Saunders’ health situation, and rather beautifully, I might add. That was the same day the Timberwolves announced Sam Mitchell would take over as interim head coach and Milt Newton would assume an increased role in day-to-day operations during Flip’s leave of absence from the team. Glen Taylor issued a mandate to his employees to respect the privacy of Saunders and his family as he dealt with complications from recently completed treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The press, too, have respected these wishes, as is only appropriate.
And yet, stories leak. They leak because people want to know, because Flip is a well-respected guy with many friends, and because everyone, I think, is genuinely concerned. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune is as plugged into the Wolves as anyone, and in a Thursday chat, he volunteered a bit of information about Flip’s current status:
We all deal with loss, we all undergo trials. Flip Saunders is a famous person, so even though we don’t “know” him, we care about what’s happening to him. Even those of us who have been lucky enough to chat with him as media aren’t his friends, really. But in the limited interactions I’ve had, he’s been kind and gracious. He’s a teacher, through and through, and I mean that in the kindest way possible; you can tell that he loves dispensing knowledge about the game of basketball. The fact that he’s so well-regarded in league circles that can often be poisoned with agendas and egomaniacal posturing says a lot. People love Flip. He’s just that kind of a guy.
Whatever your disdain for certain aspects of team philosophy, or your displeasure with the country club atmosphere within the franchise (I’m guilty of that), know this – they’re in capable, qualified hands. Sam Mitchell has been a head coach before. Milt Newton has paid his dues, and ought to be trusted as the Wolves’ chief decision maker.
But honestly, it’s hard to pretend to care about any of that very much right now. It feels a bit callous; the games will start soon, and so will the fun. This team is going to be fun. But at the same time it’ll be difficult to forget just what Flip Saunders is going through, right now, concurrent with all the excitement of a new season. And that’s how I, as a relative outsider, feel; I can’t imagine what the guys who’ve had months, years or decades-long relationships with Flip are going through.
They’ll say that they’re professionals, with jobs to do, and that they have to put it all out of their minds while they play. But that’s impossible, and everyone knows it. So all we can do is wait, and hope, and send whatever positive thoughts we can (prayer, too, if that’s what you believe in) to Flip and his family. This sucks.